Guest Post: Travelling the Pages

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Today I have a guest post from Heather over at Hermit Librarian writing a guest post for Travelling the Pages! So enjoy, and don’t forget to visit Heather!

Two things I love in life are books and food. Cooking competition shows are among my favorite television programs and I often read while eating (9 times out of 10 if we’re being honest).

When I was thinking on what sort of topic I should tackle for a post relating to books from around the world and how I could relate it back to my second love, the first thing that came to mind was comfort food. Books are something that bring a great deal of comfort to me, even when I’m dealing with the heartbreak and angst that might be induced by a character’s life choices.  Food is something that can bring about good memories and make you feel better at the worst of times, whether it’s a chocolate chip cookie or a satisfying soup.

For each book I selected, I paired them with a dish that I’ve either tried personally from that country or something that I researched and would be more than happy to sample while reading the highlighted title.

If You’re Reading Soundless by Richelle Mead…

…You Might Like to Try Congee! (China)

The best way to describe congee in it’s most typical Chinese form is a watery type of porridge. It’s a plain grain dish that is often served with a simple seasoning such as salt or pepper, soy sauce, or fish to give it an added texture.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Why is this a comfort food? I find this to be a comfort food not only because it is reminiscent of porridge, something my grandmother would make me on a cold morning, something to be mixed with brown sugar and slurped from a shallow bowl, but because of the thought behind it. Congee is a dish often served because it can be stretched to share with a great many people. It’s not only comforting to the body because you have something that fills your belly, but it’s comforting to the soul because you have something to share with others that might not have enough.

If You’re Reading The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh…
…You Might Like to Try Qatayef! (Saudi Arabia)

Qatayef is the one dish I have not yet been able to try and I most look forward to sampling, whether finding it in a restaurant or making it myself. Below I’ve linked to a recipe, which looks simple enough (very encouraging!). This dish is an Arab dessert that is typically served during Ramadan. It’s much less sweet than an American palate might be used to and includes a variety of nuts, an interesting contrast to the possible cheese filling within.
Photo and recipe courtesy of Fati’s Recipes
Why is this a comfort food? There’s a lot of tradition behind this dessert and I think that the history there lends it a certain comfort. It’s like knowing that, come Christmas, there will be gingerbread men waiting for Santa, or in my family, meringue cookies to welcome in the spring time. It has to do with the same delicious thing occurring with regularity and having that to depend on, knowing that it’s only a little while longer until you can taste this scrumptious pastry at it’s usual time.

If You’re Reading Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya…

 …You Might Like to Try Onigiri!(Japan)

Onigiri is a Japanese rice ball that can be customized to produce optimal deliciousness. You can make it sweet, savory, or plain if you like. It can be dressed up, wrapped up simply, or covered in nori. It’s an easy snack that I tried for the first time when I visited Kinokuniya in New York, a Japanese bookstore that has a cafe on the top floor selling several tradition snacks and meals.

Photo courtesy of Just Bento
Why is this comfort food? When I tried my first onigiri, one salmon and one tuna, I was filled with a sense of happiness. It was such a simple dish, just rice and some filling, but it brought a smile to my face with the good, clean fish flavor, the tender texture of the rice, and the ease with which you can eat them. Onigiri are a good reading food as they can be made small enough to be handheld in most cases, though they can be a bit stick because of the rice.

Tohru Honda, the main character of Fruits Basket, even makes onigiri the focus of an episode when making them as part of a school festival.

Imagine how many she’d have to make for the whole school!

If You’re Reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer…

…You Might Like to Try Lamb Hot Pot! (China)
Hot pot is a new-ish dish to me. I had heard it mentioned before and seen it cooked on one or two shows before, but I’d never made it myself before this year. Having done that now, though, I must say that it is both a delicious and entertaining experience.

Photo courtesy of CNN

With the heat source at the base of the pot, you cook the meal yourself at the table, adding in the meat and vegetables as the broth boils. Another dish that has a lot of room to customize the experience, this is not a quick eat. You can gather around a hot pot for an hour or more, leaving plenty of time to talk about a current read, new additions to your reading list, or the latest book to movie adaptation.

Why is this a comfort food? The whole idea of sitting around a table, whether as a family or a group of friends, is a comforting thought because it’s a time to talk and to share, ideally. When you’re cooking hot pot, you get to sit around the food as it cooks and you can smell all those delicious smells coming together to create this stew-like dish. The first sip of a rich lamp hot pot fills you with a warmth that would not fail to chase away the coldest night of winter, and sharing that with friends or family while talking about books? Amazing.

If You’re Reading The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye…

…You Might Like to Try Pierogi! (Russia)
These little pasta pockets are popular in many countries, but one of them is Russia. There is a Orthodox Russian church near my hometown that sells them each month and make a big event of the sale’s day. A popular filling for savory pierogi is mushrooms or onions, possibly spinach. If you’re going to make them yourself you could really make them with anything you like. Craving something sweet? Why not try putting some fruit or cheese in there? It might not be traditional anymore, but I’ll bet it’s comforting.

Photo courtesy of DVO Newsletter
Why is this a comfort food? I think we’ve established by now that anything warm is going to be comforting, especially in colder climates. While writing this post, the temperatures around me are finally starting to go down and that brings to mind these sorts of recipes.

Pasta is one of the most comforting foods I can think of. The starchy goodness is has a pleasant texture and fills up your belly, plus pasta comes in many forms. The best is when you can stuff it with something that just gives it that extra punch. Cheesy potatoes are my favorite and when that gets mixed with onions or mushrooms, two of my favorite vegetables, I can instantly feel my mood lifting. I associate it with good feelings: curling up on the couch, reading, talking with my husband, sharing a meal with him after a hard day’s work. It’s hard to stop from finishing the whole pot!
All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.
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